To Be Continued

I’ve been wanting to give you an update on a couple of our projects, commitments and experiments from throughout the year…

Garden Challenge: (click link for full story) In short, the idea was to grow as much food as possible for our family, with only a small (5ft x 5ft) garden plot and a large container garden…and to do it for free! We had some wonderful, generous help from several people…Gabriel, America, Tree, Kathy (Jeff’s mom!) and other friends gave us seeds, soil, compost, starts and even financial help that made the tomatoes possible! I dumpster dove for large pots and we even turned an old bureau, found on the street, into our tomato box. Initially when we began, I envisioned a much larger project, and so I planted a big variety of vegetables and herbs. In the end, our zero budget only took us so far, and by the time planting season was done, we had far less available soil and containers than would make a big harvest possible. Our landlord also put a damper on using vertical space, which would have increased our output. We reaped a bounty of lots of little num nums, but not enough to feed a family of three, that’s for sure! Two lessons were very clear:

1. To homestead, farm or even just grow more than enough to make one pot of stew, you need SPACE. As my friend Shane said, “You don’t need more soil…you need more LAND.” Even with the soil and pots we did have, it is clear that plants just really, really like being in the ground. Surely, some kind of super hydroponic, uber permaculture design might have yielded more…but then we’re looking at accessibility to resources (money, donations, time, equipment, knowhow, labor, time, time) which, as a one-woman show, I just didn’t come up with. For this idea to really work, I would have needed to approach it like a non-profit business venture…and as an introverted, artistically inclined homebody with an infant, well…

2. If I had to do it all over again, with the same limitations, I would have just planted 1-2 crops. Like lettuce, or kale, or some other high producing, long season vegetable. Peas? Beans? In a small space? Fagghedibowdit.

Initially I had thought we would have an end of season supper, for all the friends who helped us. I envisioned large containers of sunflowers on our stoop, that the neighborhood kids would help grow…I had the vision, its just that the manifestation was beyond me this year. The only end of season celebration we have had is standing around the dehydrator, eating dried tomatoes like they’re heirloom crack.

The motley crew...still hanging on, despite the date.

Despite the shortcomings of end result vs. dream, I still feel it was a worthwhile effort, and it certainly was fun. If nothing else, Fern now considers all plants as loving benefactors to her gullet. Yesterday she found another Borage plant that she had yet to pick clean, and she began to giggle as she reached for flower after flower…

No seedling is safe from The Grasp

Plastic free consumption: It’s still on! For the most part, we avoid plastic in our big grocery trips. Here’s where we could do a lot better…

“Convenience” foods: We don’t buy many of these, but it does happen…the plastic tub of take-out from Whole Foods, the plastic wrapped seitan, the plastic sprouted tofu container, Field Roast, the plastic wrapped Rice Dream Moon Pie…always bought thoughtlessly, or in a hurry, or in desperation to eat something yummy and nutritious and “fast”. It’s easy to intellectualize away the compulsion that purchases these things…but in reality it happens, mostly I think because our lives are set up in a certain way that relies on speed. Tight schedules, hungry mommies, screaming babies, small budgets. High octane living is not desirable for us, but right now it is a result of what seem like necessary choices. I would love to make my own seitan, or tofu. And bread and a week-ahead menu. Right now, spending all my time in the kitchen is not possible…both logistically and for my own sanity. BUT! This is not a justification, and I am still committed to cutting out plastic, wherever possible.

We don't buy plastic toys for Fern, which can be awkward when she is given them as gifts. Some things, like this hand-me-down pop-up play space has a benefit that outweighs it's syntheticness

Plastic wrapped whole foods: Cheese from Rainbow, yogurt, etc. These are items it takes more fore-thought to avoid (we can call rainbow ahead of time for unwrapped cheese, we could make our own yogurt with milk bought in a glass jar). This stuff falls into the excuse category…”We’re too busy” but really the reason is “We could be better organized”.

Necessities: A new power cord for my Macbook is 1. made out of plastic and 2. comes in a plastic box. Saline solution for my contacts comes in a plastic bottle. We just got a new well-functioning plastic spray bottle for our vinegar and tea tree oil homemade cleaner. We had been re-using an old windex bottle, and it was basically broken. So…I could give up my computer…which I rely on heavily for work, information and entertainment. I could wear my glasses instead of contacts and do battle with poor self-image every time I leave the house. I could continue using the broken windex bottle and end up throwing it in a screaming fit of frustration. Choices…some are not so clean cut, some are questionable, some are worth changing,  and others require us to change in ways we are not ready to yet. The discomfort I feel around this is fuel to really challenge myself on choices, to cut myself some slack for sometimes reaching for convenience when I’m tired, and to continue to strive to get my priorities to really line up with my passions. There is a big piece here too, around the economic viability of having land on which to grow food, or being able to consume “green” goods, and whether or not it is possible for The Poor, or even possible within our current system. But *that* is a whole nother post.

A cat paw in Autumn light...good medicine for the weary eco-soldier

Ultimately, a serious change in lifestyle will begin to make these shifts much easier, and that is something I still have my sights set on.

Besides, all my recent ukulele practicing would sound a lot better on a country porch

6 thoughts on “To Be Continued

  1. You are living (trying to) my favorite quote — “Be the change you wish to see in the world” –Ghandi. I’m proud of you for even trying and under the circumstances you did very well.
    The Mom

  2. ooo, look at your owls.

    i am on a similar thought page as you right now….especially after listening to this guy ,

    tonight on the radio….f***. he’s got me thinking. and wanting to vote 7 millions times.

    also! i got the book by neufeld from the library and i LOVE it so far. i feel like he is from the same planet as leslie, who leads my parenting group. thanks so much for sharing that with me.

    1. wow, i am SO glad the author/book resonated…i hesitate sometimes to “recommend” things to people…i don’t want to be annoying. but his website really spoke to me, and reminded me so much of what you’ve been going through. it’s intense, being a mindful parent, especially when you reach the end of what you know, when you thought you had been doing everything “right”. it takes a lot of courage to not know what to do until a certain moment has come again and again…and again. to respond freshly, instead of conditionally. you are a warrior mama. xo

  3. Woot for your garden! Even if it turn out smaller than you envisioned. Happens to me all the time and I DO have space. Corvis om nom noms the sugar snap peas and intuitively knows when they’ve put out more pods. He also loves helping me collect greens and flowers for our salads. I think it’s awesome that Fern is learning all about her food first hand and has the chance to get excited about seeing and harvesting her food. If any of your tomatoes stay green I have and recipes for you.

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